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Surgery scare for patients

Public outrage has erupted over reports that 80 percent of quotas for high-tech medical treatment allocated by the health ministry for 2011 had been used up by August ­ and access to life-saving surgeries and other procedures could be severely limited.

Various health care experts and charity foundation workers have pointed out the situation is not as bad as originally portrayed.

Kommersant reported that it was charity organizations that raised the alarm about quotas.

"I don't know where they got this [80 percent] figure from ­ but perhaps the situation is really like that," Yekaterina Chistyakova, program director at the Podari Zhizn charity foundation, told The Moscow News.

"In our case, there are no more quotas in neurosurgery in the Burdenko hospital. During August, patients [there] did not get hospitalized on a free of charge basis, but only for money."

Each year, the Ministry of Health and Social Development allocates a certain amount of quotas for high-tech medical procedures in over 250 medical institutions across the country.

In 2011, the Ministry of Health initially planned to spend 42. 2 billion rubles (almost 1. 5 billion dollars) for treatment of 301,374 people, a press-release on the ministry's website read. Apparently, this was not enough.

Chistyakova agrees that to predict the amount of people who will require such procedures as neurosurgery in a given year is an impossible task, but she believes that the Health Ministry will be able correct and increase the amount of quotas.

"There is an uneven distribution of quotas when it comes to high-tech medical procedures in Russia," Chistyakova pointed out.

But while Podari Zhizn has noticed problems with quotas this year, other charity foundations say the situation is not as dire.

"We do fundraising for hightech instruments that are often needed to perform surgeries in [specific] institutions," Olga Abashina, press-secretary for Liniya Zhizni charity, told The Moscow News. "Personally, our foundation has not received any significant increase in appeals this year."

Because charity foundations are regularly contacted when a patient's procedure is not covered by a quota ­ the amount of appeals they receive each year can be a good indicator of how well the overall quota system is working.

Systemic problems

The Ministry of Health and Social Development has reacted quickly to recent media reports and prepared a draft order for an increase in funding for free surgeries.

"This year, the Ministry of Health will increase the state order for medical treatment for 4,727 more patients, of which 3,511 are children," a press-release read. "Considering the issue of additional funding, 8,000 more patients will receive high-tech medical care."

Experts at the Russian Public Chamber explained that charity workers had reasons to raise the alarm ­ but that overall, the situation was nevertheless under control.

"The problem with lack of quotas in some health organizations does exist, but generally Russian hospitals provide high-tech medical care in full ­ there is no flurry of letters to me from people around the country on this topic," Yevgeny Achkasov, chairman of the Committee on Health, Environment, Physical Education and Sports at the Public Chamber, told The Moscow News.

Achkasov said that are regular appeals to Public Chamber from citizens and charity foundations to help with the problem of quotas on high-tech medical care, but only with regard to select health institutions.

"Of course there are individual cases ­ in which we assist as much as we can," he said.

Achkasov pointed out that according to his data, just a little over 50 percent of the quotas were already used by medical organizations on the federal and local level that are responsible for providing high-tech medical care.

"To say that people can't get treatment is wrong, they can ­ but in some hospitals there is indeed a shortage of quotas," Achkasov said. Ashkasov did not elaborate on which specific hospitals are having problems.

According to Achkasov, the real problem is lack of medical institutions that offer high-tech treatment to begin with.

"Not all of the regions have medical institutions that comply with the state standards for hightech treatment ­ and if a person cannot receive it in one hospital, they shall seek it elsewhere," he said. "When a person from the Republic of Kalmykia has no choice but go to Vladivostok, there is, of course, something wrong."

According to Achkasov, patients are often refused free treatment only to be automatically offered to undergo treatment for money.

Achkasov said that the solution to the problem depends on the development of private medical care.

"We shall enlarge the list of medical organizations of all ownership types, state or private, that can offer high-tech medical care," he said.

Achkasov warned that pointing out just one problem with the health system in Russia is ethically incorrect.

"We have so many problems to tackle, why single out just one?"

Russia, Health - Russian News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

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